I love it when good friends and good food collide as was the case when I was in New York recently. I had planned some east coast travel to catch up with high school and college friends, and to try some new restaurants that I had been drooling over in the news. One of the restaurants, Bâtard, had been receiving best new restaurant reviews from all the foodie elite in New York, and then James Beard just crowned Bâtard best new restaurant in the U.S. I needed no more information. It was go time.
Not everyone is up for meals like this, especially when I pour over every word on the menu and examine each morsel on the plate like a scientist before eating it. Luckily for me two of my friends from Paris have relocated to New York and another flew in from the City of Light so the four of us reunited for the first time in several years at the French named restaurant Bâtard.
While the name is French, the chef, Markus Glocker, was actually born in Austria, but honed his culinary chops in notable kitchens around the world like Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and Gordon Ramsay in London and New York. The wine list is a oenophile's dream of beautiful French Burgundies with the prices to match. There are just a handful of bottles under the $100 and we found a wonderful one with Fourchaume, a perfectly crisp, food friendly Chablis Premier Cru from Roland Lavantureux.
The dining room has clean lines, exposed wood tables and a subtle yellow hue throughout. Given the accolades, the menu is reasonably priced with options for two, three and four course menus, $55, $69 and $79 respectively. The menu changes often, but there have been a few mainstays like the octopus "pastrami" that a) I have never said in a sentence before and b) fell in love with at first bite. It looks like a beautiful big eyed terrine with large chunks of octopus dotting the slab. There's braised ham hock and pastrami spices for the most awesome and unique flavor.
Roasted beets sat under caramelized hazelnuts and red currants for a satisfying dish. Refreshing and bright was the lobster salad, simply dressed and tossed with avocado, fava beans and jicama - a great summer salad.
The barley risotto brought us into the warm dishes and was heavier with a good chew and brighter scallop fricassee and spring garlic mignonette.
The plating was beautiful and precise like the perfect slices of branzino atop cleanly cooked artichokes, romano beans and tarragon coulis. Duck beast was well-cooked and paired with cherries, braised endive, almonds and balsamic. We were all enjoying our meals immensely, and luckily my friends are still up for sharing with plate swapping, or otherwise it might have led to stabbing by me to sneak bites. Luckily I didn't have to draw blood to try everything. There's a reason I'm friends with these gals!
I posted a picture of my veal tenderloin on Instagram and someone wondered if it was a corn dog. If it was, it was the best dang corn dog I've ever eaten, times 1,000. Everything about this dish worked for me. A sauce diable was gently poured over the veal, offering some contrasting notes to the meat, trumpet mushrooms and sweetbreads. Magnifique!
My French friends aren't afraid of dessert, but we were all pretty full by the end of the meal, and had been staring at the drink cart all night, which was parked next to our table. Coincidence? We don't think so. We "had" to partake in the who's who on the cart. There was a huge line up of Eaux de Vie and we went for the pear, which was light and crisp, but then we went deeper.
Seeing as I had traveled with some of these friends through Normandy and the heavily concentrated Calvados areas, I went with a glass of the potent, but smooth apple brandy. When I received my drink, I knew we had to have the chocolate mousse to pair with our digestifs, and everyone happily participated.
I left content, until I passed the cheese cart. There was beautiful creamy, gooey cheese presented and a server even let me put my nose under the glass for a whiff. That smell is lingering and has me dreaming of my return to good food with great friends, no matter the city.
239 W. Broadway, New York